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Bob McMillanAn Opinion

By Bob McMillan
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Electric Cars for Long Island?

While I know there are arguments for lowering the consumption of electricity on Long Island, what about the issue of reliance on foreign oil to run our economy? Today, around 60 percent of U.S. crude oil and petroleum products are imported. We actually consume one quarter of the world’s oil and use much greater amounts of oil per capita than any other nation in the world!

We also know that as the price of gasoline goes up, that is when our elected officials call for action. Guess what. There is never any real action and as the price of gasoline goes down, the political rhetoric turns off.

What I want to cover today is what I see for the future in the development of electric cars. If we are ever to stop our dependence on foreign oil, we have to figure out how to cut back on the use of gasoline. Then, the issue will be how do we generate more electricity without using oil generators. Wind, water, solar, and, yes, even nuclear power generation have to be developed at a higher pace in the United States.

Electric cars are real. In fact, it is interesting to note that back in the late 1930s and 1940s, a baking company, where my father worked, actually used electric trucks for the delivery of baked goods to local residences. In those days, the truck batteries were recharged every night. Then, the trucks would travel their routes all day without charging again.

Today, one of the most interesting stories about electric cars emanates from Israel. At the heart of the development of electric cars in Israel is a company named Better Place. That company provides batteries for Renault-Nissan electric cars. Rather than selling the batteries with the cars, Better Place rents the batteries and collects the “rent” for the battery over the life of the car.

There is another interesting dimension to the Better Place batteries. As with most electric cars, the batteries can be charged while you are at home and at work, but the Better Place system also enables you to exchange the batteries while you are on the road! The company has developed automated battery switch stations, where the traveler can swap out a low charge battery with one that is fully charged. Just as you would pull into a gas station to fill up your tank, you can pull into a battery switching station and replace your battery. And the battery exchange can be done within 90 seconds, even faster than a gasoline fill up.

Today, all over Israel, electric grids are available for charging cars while people are at home, shopping, at work, having lunch, or in transit on Israel’s public rail system. In addition to Israel, Better Place is at work in Japan, Hawaii, and Denmark. Shai Agassi, the founder of Better Place, best summed up his company by saying “Our solution is the only one that can decrease countries’ oil consumption and significantly reduce emissions, while providing consumers with electric cars that are more convenient and affordable than internal combustion engine cars”.

Summing up today’s international challenges, oil is, in my judgment, the root challenge. Some 19 percent of our imported oil comes from the Middle East and Venezuela. It would be great to see more electric cars on our roads and less oil tankers in our harbors.


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